Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Gay Liberal Opposes Gun Control



By most standards, I’m liberal: I’m gay (and support GLBT equality), and support progressive taxation, breaking up the Mega-banks, alternative energy, a social safety net, legalized cannabis and compassionate immigration laws. I’m the president of my local teacher’s union, believe in mandatory profit-sharing, and a national health insurance plan. Most of my friends – both “Facebook” friends and flesh-and-blood friends generally agree with my positions.


But when it comes to the Second Amendment – well, I am going to stand apart from the crowd.  I do not support the current efforts to curtail firearm ownership.  And I hope my otherwise liberal friends will at least give me the benefit of reading why I am not on the bandwagon.


1) This nation should NEVER adopt legislation as a response to a crisis.  Our track record in every area is awful, because we let emotion and politics and a blind desire to “do something!” drive the program…and we often make big, big mistakes.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed, the nation demanded that government do ‘something’ in the name of security.  

 That ‘something’ was one of the most shameful chapters in American history, as our government rounded up 110,000 Japanese-Americans, sent them to concentration camps, and confiscated their property. President Franklin D Roosevelt did this through an Executive Order, which allowed local military commanders to designate "military areas" as "exclusion zones," from which "any or all persons may be excluded." This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona. It took until 1988 for a formal Presidential Proclamation apologizing, blaming the actions on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”


And yet, we did it.  And it was clearly unconstitutional.  But we did it in response to a perceived crisis.


Fast Forward to 9/11…and we did the same thing.  The Patriot Act, NDAA, the right of Government to spy on library and bank accounts without search warrants, actual public hearings seeking to deny Muslims the right to open up mosques, the suspension of habeus corpus, the indefinite detention of Americans without charge or trial, and the ongoing tragedy of Guantanamo Bay show that we are still all too willing to engage in overtly unconstitutional acts when we respond to a perceived crisis.  Every time you remove your shoes to get on a plane, and every time a TSA agent strip searches someone’s grandmother, you continue to see these effects.


We even do it in legal areas unrelated to security:  In 1993, the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that a government must show a compelling state interest to prohibit gay marriage; the emotional howling of conservatives – who feared that conservative states would have to accept same-sex marriage – led to an emotional passage of DOMA, the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” which has been ruled unconstitutional in no fewer than eight federal courts, including both the first and second Circuit Courts of Appeal.  


Whenever we say, “We must act now!,” and act based on emotion, we do a historically terrible job of complying with our own Constitution.


I have read a number of very strong opinions lately, and am struck by how little people actually know about firearms. Raised on a generation of Matrix and shoot-em-up movies, much of the public believes that semi-automatic rifles simply let loose with a burst of bullets. Very few seems to understand that a semi-automatic does no such thing – it’s one trigger pull, one bullet – but in the heat of emotion, facts don’t seem to matter.

2) Making something illegal – or harder to obtain – does not make it go away. Rather, it drives the good or service underground where it is controlled by criminal elements – the very thing we do not want to do.


Once again, we can look at actual, objective history: 

We outlawed alcohol, and it didn’t go away.  Instead, it went underground, and its distribution was controlled by crime families.  Violence increased significantly as these families battled for territory.  The same is true of today’s Drug cartels.  We outlawed gambling, only to see it driven underground. As expected, the openness of offshore internet gambling accounts has actually increased the visibility of the ‘service,’ and reduced criminal violence. Until 1965, birth control was illegal in Connecticut, and until 1972, abortion was illegal in the majority of US states.  Do you think that no one in Connecticut used birth control, and no one obtained abortions?  Rather, both were relegated to unsafe, shady operations that resulted in tracking difficulty and more crime.  And finally, thirteen states enforced laws outlawing sodomy…do we really believe that gay men lived celibate lives until The Supreme Court overturned these laws in 2003 (Lawrence vs. Texas)?


Outlawing human activity, goods, or services has *never* eliminated the market for those goods and services.  It has only served to drive them underground, off the radar, and into the hands of criminal and shadowy elements.  


Is that what you want for firearms?


In the wake of Newtown, I wish people would be honest and admit that the guns used at the Newtown massacre WERE STOLEN.  They were ILLEGALLY OBTAINED.  No amount of registration, background check, or prohibition stops this activity.  There is an irrational disconnect between most of the proposals being floated and what actually happened at Newtown.


3) Please, in the name of all that is Honest, I am asking all of our politicians to cease parroting the mantra that goes, “Oh, I fully support the 2nd Amendment, but we need restrictions/controls/limitations…blah blah blah”


Let me lay some Constitutional Law on you folks: the Second Amendment is NOT about hunting or sports.  It’s about personal protection – and that includes protection against the police power of the State.  You don’t have to like it or agree with it, but that is our legal history.


Some have recently developed some twisted interpretations, suggesting that the Second Amendment is too obsolete, or only applies to rural hunting situations, or is only meant for state militias (not average citizens).


Enter District of Columbia vs. Heller, the landmark 2008 Supreme Court case, which held,


“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”


Not militia use – any individual.


Not hunting and sport - Personal Defense.


In so doing, the Court invalidated a hand-gun ban and a trigger-lock requirement.
 The Second Amendment was drafted and adopted in order to allow every-day citizens to protect themselves against government tyranny.  It is a defense against both criminal elements and the police state - a defense denied to Jews in the Warsaw ghetto and, tragically, to Matthew Shepherd, the iconic gay youth who was beaten and tied to a Wyoming fence a decade ago.   
On an all-too-frequent basis, we read of gay men beaten with tire irons and baseball bats and left as bleeding pulps in the streets of our urban centers.  In 2004, the FBI reported that 1,482 gays were violently assaulted – some killed, some permanently disfigured and crippled.


This gay man will not be at the mercy of criminals, nor will he wait for the police to arrive.


Do I wish each of these guys carried a pistol?  Damn Straight. But cities – notably New York City and Chicago – make it near impossible for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves or carry, even if they are walking through high-crime areas late at night.


When seconds count, knowing that the police can be 5 minutes away offers no solace.


4) Constitutional Rights are not ‘contingent’ upon licensing, approval, background checks, or government permission.  You have a Right to speak, without the government deciding you are stable.  You have a right to form and engage in a religion, even if the government doesn't like it.  You have a right against self-incrimination, even if you are the most vile criminal.  You have a right to be compensated if your property is taken by eminent domain, without a public vote on whether we like you or not.  And you have a Constitutional Right to defend yourself with firearms, without government ‘permission.’ 


People are clamoring for ‘background checks.’


Can someone tell me what you are looking for in this background check? Mental stability? Criminal records?  How about a credit check? 


Do I think that convicted felons should be able to carry firearms?


Yes, I do.


[WHAT?! OK, Thom, you went too far here….!]


Hear me out:  1 in 6 black men in this country has been jailed. It is a societal embarrassment that our so-called “War on Drugs” has decimated the minority community and made ‘criminals’ out of people who never hurt anyone.  In some states, young men are branded ‘sexual offenders’ for ‘crimes’ as innocuous as peeing in public when drunk. People involved in one-time violent crimes, who have paid their debt to society and have reestablished themselves in their community wear a Scarlet A on their chest for the rest of their lives.


Should we disqualify anyone with a criminal record? 

Better be careful: it may not be long before we all have some ‘stain’ on our background, either because of an innocuous crime, or a credit rating that says we are a ‘danger,’ or songs downloaded from the internet, or because we had the audacity to support a group on a Facebook post that the government has branded a “terrorist” organization.

The clamoring for "background checks' is not being accompanied by an explanation of what we are actually looking for - and what is fair. 

After all, it is the government against which the Second Amendment is meant to protect me that would be performing the background checks. 


I will not give up any of my Constitutional Rights without a fight to the end.  That includes:


Speech (whether you agree or not, and whether you find it ‘hateful’ or not.)


Assembly and Protest (whether I have a ‘permit’ or not, even when the cops come armed with tazers and pepper spray.)


Religion (whether its ‘mainstream’ or not.)


Press (Whether I have a ‘press pass’ or not. I will use my phone as a camera to film police activity. It is my RIGHT.)


Right to Remain Silent (even when a cop pulls me over and asks me where I’ve been. I do NOT have to answer.)


And yes, the Right to Bear Arms….even when the State or the public prefer to render me defenseless.


.

3 comments:

Starshadow said...

As a non-gun-owning lesbian mom and grandmother, I want to thank you for both your stance AND your well-reasoned arguments.

I'm sharing this on FB. Thank you again.

Will said...

One corretion -- the guns used in Connecticut school massacre were not stolen. They were legally purchased by the shooter's mother and brought into the home by her. She then took her son to a shooting range to learn how to use them.

And he did.

Thomas Simmons said...

He still stole them from his mother to use them: the point is that a background check or license for the mother did not prevent them from being misused by someone else. These obstacles to firearma ownership ONLY burden those who follow the rules - - not those who who intend otherwise.